"A Declaration of Faith" - Introduction


                                        “To love God is something greater than to know him.”                                              (St. Thomas Aquinas)

“Human beings must be known to be loved, but God must be loved to be known.”
(Blaise Pascal)

“One’s spiritual health is exactly proportionate to one’s love for God.”
(C. S. Lewis)

What is Theology?

          If you love Jesus and are committed to his church and God’s mission in the world, then you are a theologian!  Yes, it’s true.  You are a theologian.  You likely spend some time and energy thinking about God and God’s relation to your life and world. You probably read and ponder the Bible on a regular basis. You try to make sense of your experience and world in light of what you believe about God.[1]  You even pray and work to serve others.  And that makes you a theologian.

          Theology simply means talk or thought about God and life with God.  In the most general sense, every human being has some “ultimate concern”[2] and thinks about how it impacts their lives.  So in that sense everyone is a theologian. 

          We are Presbyterian Christians.  We reflect on God in the light of the Bible’s witness to Jesus Christ and the Presbyterian tradition of thought about God.  We will follow the lead of the Presbyterian statement A Declaration of Faith.  Written in the mid-seventies and adopted by the former Southern Presbyterian Church in 1977, this fine statement of faith was approved by the reunited Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the mid-eighties as a worthy document for study and reflection.  My hope and prayer is that by immersing ourselves in its interpretation of the Bible and vision of Christian faith each of us will grow in our desire and ability to think and talk about God in more informed and responsible ways.

What is Theology Based On?

          Christian theology rests on the reality of God’s revelation of himself to us in Jesus Christ and through the scriptures which bear witness to him.  Whatever we may learn of God through studying the creation or assessing our experiences, the definitive and normative revelation of God and God’s will and way for and with his creation is reflected in the Bible and its witness to Jesus Christ.  “The Theological Declaration of Barmen” written in 1934 encouraging the German church to resist the Nazi takeover of Germany and included in the PC(U.S.A.)’s Book of Confessions says this memorably:  Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death. Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.[3]

What is revelation?  The word means to “uncover” or “unveil” something hidden or impenetrable - a mystery.  Mystery in the Bible is not a problem or puzzle that we have not but might yet solve with more thought and data but rather something we could never know or imagine on our own.  Unless God tells us, we remain in the dark.  We are creatures both finite and fallen.  For both reasons we are unable to discover true knowledge about God by our own unaided thought (see Isa.55:6-9 for finiteness and Eph.4:17ff. for fallenness).  We are dependent on God for knowledge of God!

          Faith is the condition for human knowledge of God’s revelation.  Once we believe, that very faith pushes or impels us to try to understand ever more deeply what God has revealed for us to know.  The something in faith that creates this impetus to understand is a relationship with God so compelling that we can scarcely do otherwise! 

Faith is far more than just mental assent to a set of truthful propositions.  Even the demons must assent to the truth about God (James 2:19)!  Faith has three aspects:  truth, trust, and troth.  Faith does require our mental assent to the truth about God, life, and the world revealed in scripture.  But faith also entails trust.  Trust is the willingness to climb in the wheelbarrow of the tightrope walker who has just asked for someone who trusts him to go for a ride.  This takes us well beyond simple mental assent.  Faith involves us, body and soul, in following God’s design and intention for us.  Finally, faith also is troth.  This Old English word (captured in the King James use of “betrothed” in the Christmas stories) is essentially being married without yet going through the ceremony or consummating the relationship.  It is more than our “engagement.”  The couple is legally bound to other by the love they share.  God’s love for us made known in Jesus Christ evokes this love-trust relationship that is faith’s full flower we hope to exhibit in life and in death.  This desire to understand is, thus, the fruit of the love of God!

          This is the point of the quotations I posted at the head of this chapter.
“To love God is something greater than to know him.”                                                        (St. Thomas Aquinas)

“Human beings must be known to be loved, but God must be loved to be known.”
(Blaise Pascal)

“One’s spiritual health is exactly proportionate to one’s love for God.”
(C. S. Lewis)

          This is why our Presbyterian tradition highlights an insight voiced in various ways from the early church onward:  “faith seeking understanding.”  Yes, that gets it right, I think.  Faith in its threefold reality as truth/trust/troth drives us to grasp, experience, and live out this love we have received from God.  And even this faith is a gift of God by which the Holy Spirit enables us to hear, trust, and respond to the love God has for us. 

          Revelation, then, comes from the Father, is lived out for us by the Son, and made real in us by the Holy Spirit.

How Does Theology Proceed?

          Theology, then, is rooted in a living and growing relationship to the triune God and proceeds toward a worshipful adoration of that God.  Theology serves the growth and nurture of this relationship (both in its communal and personal dimensions).  The nature of what and how God has revealed himself to us is more of a laying bare of the divine heart in its yearning for us and in vulnerability to us than a set of divine truths to be codified and assimilated in our minds.  The content is important, to be sure.  But not outside that relationship God has forged with us as our Creator and Redeemer, Defender, and Friend.

          God, then, is not a specimen who can be pinned down on a board for us to examine or experiment on.  Rather, God is always the subject, not the object of our knowing.  That’s because faith is a relationship with a living being.  And it is our growing and maturing in this relationship to God that leads to growing in knowledge and understanding.  Jesus puts it well in John 7:17:  “Whosoever wants to do God’s will can tell whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own.”  Or, in other words, we cannot know the truth unless we are actively doing the truth, that is, desiring to obey God!

          This God we come to know in faith is finally and irreducibly a mystery.  Not in the sense of a problem to be solved by human ingenuity and determination (as we noted earlier), but as an inexhaustible reality that engulfs us (Gabriel Marcel).  The proper response to such a mystery is to be “ravished with love for the truth” (St. Augustine) in all its inexhaustibility.  Just as one spouse never fully plumbs the depth of the other, no matter how long they are together, how much more will we never reach the bottom with God.

          Pursuing theology’s truth also includes a moral dimension.   Presbyterians, in our Book of Order, express this moral dimension when we claim: “truth is in order to goodness.”[4]  Again, this is due to the relational character of theology.  Knowing God is inextricably tied up with holiness, that is, both Godness (to be like God in character) and goodness (to be like God in action).  The Apostle Paul uses a different but equally compelling image:  to be “conformed to the image of (God’s) son” (Rom.8:29).

          In sum, then, the mystery God is graciously invites us into relationship with himself.  This love-trust relationship[5] generates true (though not exhaustive) knowledge of God as well as an increasing likeness to our Creator and Redeemer.  This knowledge, genuinely pursued and internalized, yields “love,” and such love announces and reflects the God we proclaim better than anything else!

What Does a Theologian Do?

          A theologian’s primary function is as a witness, one who testifies (as in a courtroom) about what he or she knows about God.  The truth the theologian witnesses to is not her or his own.  It is on God’s authority, then, that this witness addresses the four large and pressing issues that haunt every human life:

                                      -whose are we?
                                      -who are we?
                                      -what is our life about?
                                      -what is our future or destiny?

          Certainly, almost every believer/theologian can be equipped to give a coherent and winsome witness to the world.  We are not asked to know everything but to know and be able to tell the story of Jesus in a way the communicates a Christian perspective on these large and pressing questions.  Bearing such vital witness to a world lost in its own shadows and illusions is what we are here to do. 

          Now, back to our courtroom image of witness.  Remember the oath witnesses (used to) swear before they take the stand?  To tell “the truth,” “the whole truth,” and “nothing but the truth,” “so help me, God.”  Let’s look briefly at each part of this oath.

-“To tell the truth”:  this reflects our fundamental and basic calling to be a witness to God’s truth, at least to the four questions noted earlier.

-“To tell the whole truth”:  we ought to be able to share at least the main features of the “big picture” of who God is and what God is doing in the world with others to the best of our ability. 

-“Nothing but the truth”:  in all our witness we seek not to speak for ourselves or on our own behalf but instead of the One who is the sole font of the truth to which we testify.

-“So help me, God”:  Our testimony points to God as not only the source but also the guarantor of the truth we share.

Because we are finite and not yet fully redeemed, however, and since our relationship to God is always a work in progress, this theologian’s “oath” always remains an ideal we fall short of.  Therefore, as such theologian/witnesses, we must be humble, open to acknowledging our error and ignorance.  Further, we believe that God is already at work in the world before we arrive on the scene.  Thus we offer a willing ear to hear and engage the stories and insights of others in expectation that we have something to learn from them as well as to share with them is requisite for faithful witness.

So we do the best we can to bear faithful witness at any point in our journey with God.  Realizing that we are both finite and still struggle with sin impels us to offer our witness to God with the prayer that God cleanse and graciously use such witness to spread the truth of the gospel in spite of our shortcomings (Phil.1:15-18).

Two of the church’s greatest theologians capture both the agony and ecstasy of being a theologian/witness.  First, Martin Luther, the great 16th century reformer, voices the agony:  “It is living, no – more – by dying and being damned to hell that one becomes a theologian, not by knowing, reading, or speculating.”  Our theology is most truly forged in the crucible of suffering and struggling with and for God in our own lives and witness.

The ecstasy, on the other hand, is captured by the 20th century Swiss reformed[6] theologian, Karl Barth.  He writes, “Since theology is evangelical (that is, gospel-centered) it can by no means be devoted to an inhuman God, for in that case it would become legalistic theology.   Evangelical theology is concerned with Immanuel, God with us!  Having this God for its object, it can be nothing else but the most thankful and happy science.”[7] Scarcely surprising then that the way we reformed folk characteristically summarize the human response to the “good news” (or “gospel”) of God’s amazing grace is gratitude or thankfulness!

We live and witness between the poles of this agony and this ecstasy.  The Jews have modeled for us how a people lives between these two poles by holding together both utter realism (agony) and extravagant hope (ecstasy).  Their example is a great gift for the church to embrace and learn from.  Please God that we do so.

The Experience of Theology

          Theology is, as we have discovered, is thinking and talking about God and the way of life God calls us to live in the midst of living that life.  All genuine theology arises out of the lived experience of the people of God between the poles of the agony and ecstasy mentioned above.  Not that this is what theology has always been!  No, sadly, too much theology has involved saying more and more about less and less in the interest of proving a point or justifying one’s own understanding.  There’s no virtue in abstract intellectual discussion of theology for its own sake.  Theology is a servant of the church’s participation in God’s mission in our world.

          It is this lived experience that provides grist for our theological reflection.  Being a theologian involves living within an ever-moving, ever-changing labyrinth of experience and thought.  This process of growth in understanding goes by many names, the most esoteric being the “hermeneutical circle.”  I like to call it an “A-Cycle.”

1. Awareness
2. Affliction                                                                                       3. Action
                        4. Analysis

          This overneat diagram is a logical cross-section of a living process.[8]  It begins with Awareness.  Something happens, we experience something that raises questions about God, the world we live in, the way we live in the world, etc.  It could be a personal issue, a social issue, a disaster or a tragedy, or an observation that something seems amiss in the way the world works.  For a biblical Israelite, a frequent source of such theologically potent reflection was the self-evident reality that “good things happen to bad people.”

          Awareness brings us into this A-Spiral when it stirs up Affliction in and among us.  Such Awareness cannot be shrugged off in denial, or shut up with easy assurances (e.g., “it’s all part of the plan”).  The questions raised here are inescapable and pointed.  They allow us no rest.  This can be a very painful and turbulent time for a person or community caught up in it.  Integrity demands that we wrestle with God and each other, like Jacob wrestled with God on the banks of the Jabbock River (Gen.32), not letting go till we have received a blessing.

          Perseverance through these seasons of Affliction leads to a time of Analysis.  Here we have come to terms with what has happened in or to us enough to move toward a response.  We analyze the changes that we have undergone to this point and in prayer and reflection seek to discern a way ahead.  We will not move until a consensus has developed about the next steps to take.[9]

          Finally we take action on the basis of having undergone this kind of faithful wrestling with the issues and struggles of the people in the time and place in which God has given us to live.  Now, however, with a (hopefully) enlarged perspective on what God is doing in our world, we venture forth as (re)new(ed) people and churches to live beyond our previous horizons in openness to fresh awarenesses of the work God is calling us to do.[10] 

          This kind of theology in the church is both local and universal at the same time.  The “stuff” of our lives and ministry form its grist in all the uniqueness and peculiarity that entails.  Yet, we bring the full resources of the Christian tradition to bear as we wrestle, reflect, pray, plan, and move out in active response to what we have discerned God’s will to be for us.

          Because of the uniqueness of every situation and struggle a person or community goes through there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions we can simply borrow and apply to our circumstances.  But since we all draw on the same resources and wrestle with the same God, general patterns and insights into such struggle do exist.  We gratefully use such resources not as an “answer” to our problems but rather as benchmarks that identify places and ways in which God’s people have fruitfully undertaken such wrestling with God and found blessing.  Any theology worthy of the name will bear the marks of such wrestling with the God of the Bible, both the blessings and, perhaps, also the wounds (Gen.32:25).

Narrative Theology

          A Declaration of Faith (henceforth DF) is not only a fine statement of faith but is also a very early example of narrative theology. 

What is narrative theology, you ask?  Think first about whatever impressions you have gained about theology.  Likely a set of ideas come to mind, typically arcane and remote from real life.  They are a logical, organized, systematic explanation of the “truths” found dispersed and spread throughout the length and breadth of the Bible.  For each topic or idea, all the references to it in the Bible are gathered together and reflected on.  Where and how they occur in the Bible itself often seems unimportant.  In recent times a question has been raised about this approach.  This question quickly became an awkward and important one:  Why, if God gave us his Holy Book as one long, sprawling story, do we not read it that way?  Why do we not pay attention to the story line of the Bible and to the way events and ideas change in the history of Israel and the church? 

The difference between narrative theology and traditional theology is the difference between reading Moby Dick to learn how the whaling business worked in that time or to gain insight into becoming a better person, or reading it as a great novel.  In the former instance, it may just be possible to glean historical, political, and economic data from the novel.  No doubt you can also pick up some inspirational nuggets or life lessons to spur you on your way.  In the latter case, the story is what matters and its power is its ability to catch you up in its story in such a way that you come to realize that in significant ways this is your story too.  Further, this story is so compelling that you care deeply about it and are invested in its outcome.

This is a partial analogy, at best.  But it does make clear that the way we read something makes all the difference in the way it impacts us.  And to read a story as if it were something other than it is necessarily cuts us off from whatever depth and profundity the work possesses. 

In the case of the Bible, we have three basic images through which the Bible is read:  a window, a mirror, or a piece of stained glass.[11]   

          If we think the Bible is more like a window, we will try to look through it to discover what “really” happened.  Did all those events happen in the way and in the order the Bible presents them?  Can we prove it?  Did Jesus really say that?  To read the Bible as a window is to read it historically.  What is important to this approach is what “really” happened in so far as that can be determined.  Thus our interest will be in the “real” story which lies “behind” the story of the Bible, not the Bible’s story itself.

          If we think the Bible is more like a mirror, we will try to read the Bible to discover how it reflects on our lives and the issues and struggles we face.  Like the window image, this image is also not primarily interested in the Bible’s story itself.  Rather, the interest here is ourselves, our lives and struggles.  We hope to find in the story of the Bible insights, inspiration, encouragement, and meaning for ourselves.  Thus we focus on what is “in front of” the story of the Bible (our lives) rather than on the story itself.  Rather than looking through the Bible for what “really” happened, we look for whatever in the story reflects on our lives, interests, and struggles “in front of” the story.

          Finally, if we view the Bible primarily as a piece of stained glass, we will focus on the story the artistry in the glass is telling.  We will not be trying to look through the window to see what is behind it, though some parts of the glass may be somewhat transparent.  Nor will we search for a reflection of our own lives or ask only about what the story told in the stained glass means for me now.  Our first interest will be in the story told in the glass itself.

          I believe this last image is the one that best fits the Bible.  What “really’ happened is, of course, crucial, at least for the major benchmarks of the story.  If God did not “really” rescue his people out of Egypt or if God did not “really” raise Jesus from the dead, then the Bible is just a piece of pious fiction where life ends happily ever after but not a true picture of how life “really” is and how God is involved in it.  The problem for this approach, however, is that the Bible is not overly interested in this kind of history. 

          In my first pastorate the church I served had received a set of stained glass windows for the sanctuary as a gift from a member.  On one side of the sanctuary the windows told the Old Testament story and on the other side the New Testament story.  The Sunday we had the dedication service for these windows the staff walked the people through the biblical story as it was told in the windows.  Afterward, a member came up to me and said, “Did you know there are only ten apostles at table with Jesus in the window picturing the Last Supper?”  “No,” I answered, “It never occurred to me to count.”  I then went and counted for myself and, sure enough, there were only ten apostles at the table!  We contacted the artist and he told us that he had included only ten because the constraints of the size of the pane allowed only ten to be portrayed in a size large enough to be visible to the congregation.  To convey the truth and reality of the scene, he told us, required him to limit the number of people he could include.  But it was no less a true portrayal of the scene for that!

          This story illustrates the difficulty for the historical approach.  If the Bible is indeed more like a piece of stained glass art, it is not trying to tell the story “as it really was.”  Its interests in telling this story are not first and foremost those of chronology, factual precision (as we understand it), or statistical accuracy.  Rather the biblical storytellers are interested in conveying the “truth” and “reality” of God’s involvement in the history of his people and his world.  And telling that story is best served by their subordinating those kinds of concerns to those of the storyteller’s art- things like shaping the plot to make certain points clear, focusing on character development to picture the way God interacts with his creatures, using irony and parody (which by nature stretch the truth “as it was” to communicate their message), and a variety of other literary techniques that we will encounter in the course of this study.

Now, I’m not saying that history is unimportant or dispensable.  But its significance in “proving” things is primarily negative.  We must strive to know as much as we can about the settings, backgrounds, political and social realities, customs, geography, etc. to inform our reading of the Bible.  This is indispensable.  However, in terms of proving or disproving testimony or events, history deals in probabilities, not certainties.  An event is more or less probable or improbable, historically considered.  I believe it probable, even highly probable, that the general course of Israel’s, Jesus’, and the early church’s history is much as the Bible describes it.  But I trust with all my heart that the story the Bible tells of Israel’s, Jesus’, and the early church’s history is the true meaning of these lives told in an artful way by the Bible’s storytellers.  And of that, history can neither persuade or dissuade me!  
In the same way, I certainly do not think the Bible’s relevance and impact on our lives is insignificant or dispensable.  On the contrary, it is the main thing!  But it cannot be the main thing in the way we read the Bible!  It is only when we immerse ourselves in God’s story as we find it in the Bible that we discover our own identity, gifts, individuality, direction, and destiny.  Like everything else in the Christian life, we receive the best from God when we give ourselves to serving others.  The “Other” in this case, is God, and we serve him by apprenticing ourselves to his Word.  As we learn and internalize God’s story, we realize that this is our story too!  We are included in it, have a role to play in it, share its hope and destiny.  This story invites our participation as crucial to its telling.

Michael Ende’s wonderful fantasy novel, The Neverending Story, offers an apt analogy to the quality of the Bible.  Bastian Balthazar Bux, the story’s chief character, is a young boy lost in hurt over a dead mother, fatherly inattention, and the fact that he just didn’t seem to fit anywhere in his world.  Bastian’s only refuge was books.  One day he left school early, went to a local bookshop and borrowed a book,  The Neverending Story, from the proprietor’s desk.  Returning to school, he crept into the attic and began to read.  The Neverending Story turned out to be a most extraordinary book.  The further Bastian read the more he became involved in the story.  The key moment comes when Bastian finds himself addressed by the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, a character in the story.

“Why, this was all about him . . .  He, Bastian, was a character in the book which until now he thought he was reading . . . And now Bastian was afraid . . . He tried desperately to tell himself . . . that the resemblance to his own story was some crazy accident . . . Bastian was unaware of the tears, that were running down his cheeks.  Close to fainting, he suddenly cried out:  ‘Moon Child, I’m coming!’”
Thus, Bastian found himself caught up in a story that turned out to be the true story of his life.  He found healing and transformation – but not because he went looking for it or expected to find it.  Instead, he got caught up in a story of compelling beauty and primal urgency, responded to it, and found himself playing a role in something much larger than himself.  The story became his passion, the story became his healing, the story became his destiny.

          Such is the potential and power of reading the Bible as a story, God’s story, our story, the world’s true story.  This is the way A Declaration of Faith reads the Bible’s story.  As we follow its reading, I hope and pray that each of us will be grasped anew by the beauty and urgency of God’s call to be and behave as his people sharing his mission in and for the world.  


What is Theology?

Thinking and talking about God.

What is Theology Based On?

The revelation of God in Jesus Christ as witnessed to in the Bible.

How Does Theology Proceed?

From a relationship with God through transformation toward worshipful adoration of God.

What Does a Theologian Do?

Bears witness to the truth of God on the authority of God.

What is Narrative Theology?

Reading the Bible as one long story rather than a repository of ideas or propositions.


Further Reflections on the “Introduction.”

1.    We explored the idea of the Bible as a piece of stained glass art rather than a window or a mirror (pp.6ff.).  Here’s an example of how reading the Bible this way works.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus “cleanses” the Temple in the last week of his life, shortly before his crucifixion.  John, however, places this story very near the front of his story of Jesus in ch.2.  Why?  Did he perform this action twice?  Not likely – street theater like this only have their real punch the first time around.  So, John himself has moved this scene forward in his account of Jesus.  Why?  In John’s view the Temple in Jerusalem has failed in its service of Israel’s God.  Now it is Jesus himself, the resurrected One, who is the new temple, the place where God meets his people and establishes his presence in the world. Jesus is now the bearer and embodiment of the “glory” of God and John’s burden is to show how Jesus reflects the “glory” of God everywhere he goes and to everyone he meets.  Jesus as the New Temple is clearly the “lens” through which John wants to tell his story of Jesus.  He moves the “cleansing of the Temple” episode forward, not because he is a poor historian but to put his readers on notice that if they want to understand the true meaning of Jesus, it is as God’s New Temple that they will have to do so.  This image of Jesus as the New Temple is the most powerful and insightful way John could conceive to capture his “true” reality.  This kind of thing happens a lot in the Bible’s storytelling.  However puzzling this might seem to the historian looking through this story for what, when, and how “really happened or to those looking for some kind of direction for the living of their lives, this is just what we should expect if the Bible is, as we have claimed, a piece of stained glass art!

2.     It is important to keep the relational dimension of thinking and talking about God foregrounded so we do not lapse into a sterile intellectualism.  Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s story The Wind and the Willows has a scene which captures the relational core of seeking a relationship with the divine.  In ch.7 we meet Rat and Mole who, while looking for a lost baby otter, hear a haunting melody which leads them to small island.  They encounter the god Pan on the island.  This kind of encounter is what the biblical writers expect for us to experience too when we come into the presence of the risen and living Jesus (though of course the strength and beauty of Jesus will be described and experienced in quite different ways!).

“Perhaps (Mole) would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible color, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

“Rat!” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?”

“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid! Of him? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!”

[1] New Testament scholar Luke Johnson writes that theology is “an activity in which all the faithful participate as they seek to articulate the shape and meaning of their faith in the living God” (Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church:  The Challenge of Luke-Acts  to Contemporary Christians (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012), 69.
[2] A well-known expression for what we worship and rely on made famous by the theologian Paul Tillich.
[3] Book of Confessions (Louisville, KY:  Office of the General Assembly, 2007), 8.11.
[4]Book of Order: The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part 2 (Louisville, KY:  The Office of the General Assembly, 2007), G-1.00304.
[5] See Mark Alan Powell, Loving Jesus (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2004) for a profound reflection from a well-known New Testament scholar on his experience of “loving Jesus.”
[6] “Reformed” refers to that stream of the great 16th century Reformation in Europe.  John Calvin is usually considered to be the “father” of this stream of that movement.  Presbyterianism is one chief expression of the reformed tradition which crossed the “big pond” and came to America.
[7] Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology, (Grand Rapids. MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 10.
[8] In reality one can enter the A-Spiral at any point and journey through the other aspects from that point.  In other words, the order above is, as stated, logical.  In experience we may start at any of the “A’s” and then move through the rest of them.  It’s not so much the order as the journey through each of these moments that’s critical.
[9] Consensus does not mean total agreement between those involved but rather that all can and will support this new direction whether they fully agree with it or not.
[10] This is why the line from Action to Awareness goes outside the original Awareness in openness to new Awareness which sets off another circle of the spiral at a different level.
[11]I owe these images to Trevor Hart, Faith Thinking:  The Dynamics of Christian Theology (Downers Gove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1995), ch.6.


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